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South Africa's Laurinda Hofmeyr sets francophone African poets to music

By Alison Hird

After setting the poetry of Afrikaans writers like Breyten Breytenbach to music to great acclaim, South African singer and composer Laurinda Hofmeyr has turned her talents to poets from French-speaking Africa. Backed up by Congolese vocalists from Cape Town, she talks to RFI about the Afrique Mon Désir (the longing for Africa) project and recently-released album.

The album brings to life the pain, visions, and longing of some of the most respected francophone and Afrikaans poets.

Pride of place goes to Jean-Joseph Rabéarivelo, considered to be the father of modern literature in his native Madagascar. But also Véronique Tadjo (Côte d'Ivoire), Ousmane Moussa Diagana (Mauritania), Nimrod Bena Djangrang (Chad), Alain Patrice Nganang (Cameroon).

Three works by Afrikaans poets Breyten Breytenbach, Antjie Krog and Eugene Marais are beautifully interpreted.

Congolese musicians from Cape Town Music Academy accompany Hofmeyr notably in lingala while Madagascar's Régis Gizavo underscores the songs with haunting accordion. His sudden death just weeks after recording makes his performance all the more moving.

The Afrique Mon Désir Ensemble are currently touring France but without the Congolese musicians due to visa restrictions. Hofmeyr told RFI they "thought of cancelling" but happily three Paris-based singers: Junior-Arnold Mulongo (Congo), Milan Nzelo (Congo) and Niclle Adjabe (Cameroon) stepped into the breach and did their absent compatriots proud.

Laurinda Hofmeyr and the Afrique Mon Désir Ensemble perform at Paris's New Morning (15 June), La Quintaine in Chasseneuil du Poitou (20 June) and Theatre Jean Ferrat in Ruelle sur Touvre (29 June).

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